How Holocausts Happen image

How Holocausts Happen

This summer, I spent a difficult day at the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. I stepped inside the gas chambers where the Nazi prison guards killed 1.5 million people in two short years and, like the other tourists who stood there with me, I wondered how such a holocaust could have happened. On the way out, one of the tour guides confronted the question we were all thinking. His parting words were a chilling quote from the Auschwitz survivor, Primo Levi: “It happened, therefore it can happen again.”

Still at a loss as to how the holocaust could have happened, I took a long drive from Auschwitz to a villa on the shores of Lake Wannsee, about half an hour from Berlin. If you know your history, then you will know that it was in this villa that fifteen civil servants met for biscuits and coffee on 21st January 1942 and took less than ninety minutes to agree ‘the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’. The sun was shining when I got there. The birds were singing. I could see people swimming and sailing on the lake outside the window. It was all so beautiful and so humane that it was almost impossible to imagine that this was the drawing room where a genocide was planned.

The fifteen civil servants were very normal people. Some of them were churchgoers. One of them was rather incongruously named Martin Luther. Yet none of the fifteen raised any murmur of objection to the plans for holocaust that were unveiled before them. Two things had happened in the years leading up to their meeting that made the murder of six million Jews seem normal, even virtuous. As they wiped the biscuit crumbs from their laps and stepped out onto the veranda, these two things made them all agree that it was simply the only proper thing to do.

First, they had allowed the Jews to become dehumanised in their minds. They had listened for so long to Adolf Hitler’s propaganda that they felt they were discussing the fate of cockroaches, parasites, undesirables, vermin – all the ways in which the media had poisoned the minds of everyday Germans towards the Jews. Once they began to view the Jews as less than human, it was only logical to treat them inhumanely.

Second, they had allowed the Nazis to remove the Jews from public gaze. For several years now, the Jewish population had been driven into ghettos or into concentration camps where their faces were no longer seen. When people came into contact with them, they often spotted their humanity and rushed to protect them. Oskar Schindler in his factory in Kraków, the Dutch workers at Anne Frank’s father’s warehouse – whenever people pushed back the cloak of secrecy and looked into Jewish eyes, it broke the Nazi spell. The fifteen civil servants at Lake Wannsee calmly plotted murder over coffee because the state had succeeded in removing Jewish faces from public view.

As I drove away from Lake Wannsee, the words of Primo Levi kept echoing around my head. Not “It happened, therefore it could happen again” – the parallels with our own day were too clear – but rather, “It happened and it is happening again.”

This week marks the 50-year anniversary since the British Parliament passed the Abortion Act, on 27th October 1967. During that half-century, the lives of eight million babies have been terminated under British law. While it’s true that the scale of the British slaughter is very small compared to that in China, where 336 million babies have been aborted since 1971, it is over five times as many human lives as were exterminated at Auschwitz-Birkenau, so let’s note the parallels:

First, did you notice that I broke a major taboo in the previous paragraph when I referred to abortion as the killing of babies? The medics and the media are very stringent to avoid that term whenever they refer to terminated pregnancies. Smiling couples tell their friends they are expecting a baby, but in abortion clinics the word baby is outlawed. Like Nazis talking about ‘Jewish vermin’ or Hutu politicians condemning ‘Tutsi cockroaches’, we dehumanise our children when we label them mere foetuses.

Second, note the way in which these baby-foetuses are kept so very carefully out of the public gaze. We live in an image-saturated culture, but when did you last see a picture like the one below?
It’s of a baby only 6 weeks into its gestation. It is already millions of cells in size. It has a basic heart, a basic skeleton, a basic nervous system and basic muscles. Its tiny hands are already sprouting rudimentary fingers.

Or when did you last see a picture like this one – a baby 13 weeks into its gestation? Its little mouth now has lips and a tongue covered with taste buds. Its hands are structurally complete, with 27 distinct bones in each, and its little fingers have already started growing nails. Its sex is visible and, although its major organs still need to do a lot of growing, they are each defined and in place. It’s already a miniature human being – it is now simply a matter of scale. Doesn’t it strike you as surprising that if NASA found a cluster of cells on Mars, the photos would be all over the news under the screaming headline, ‘Life found on Mars!’  - and yet these pictures of babies in their mother’s womb are as hidden away from sight as a holocaust Jew?

It’s therefore hardly surprising that the British Medical Association began a campaign in June 2017 for a total deregulation of abortion. Trying for a boy and ended up with a girl? Don’t worry, it’s only a foetus, the girl is easily removed. Those who campaign for women’s rights will be too focused on the mother’s rights to consider defending her daughter against prenatal misogyny. Now please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty here if you are among the one-in-three British women who have had an abortion. I’m full of sympathy for the women who have fallen victim to our society’s lies, and I sense something of the turmoil that you may still be feeling inside. I’m simply trying to help you trace the path of deception which the medical professionals trod before they assured you that it was a simple procedure and that everything would be fine.

It’s natural that Christians will be among the loudest voices crying out against this modern holocaust. They were in Ancient Rome, and they were hated for it. They were in Nazi Germany, and many of them lost their lives. Christians should never stay silent in the face of the Bible’s teaching that life begins at conception (Psalm 139:13-16) and that what we call foetuses God calls precious babies (Luke 1:41-44). Human rights were his invention, and not ours.

But you don’t have to have religious faith to speak as loudly about the slaughter of 200,000 British babies each year (a quarter of all British deaths) as you do about the slaughter of the innocent by Islamic State in Syria or of the Rohingya people in Burma. You don’t have to be religious to wonder whether future generations will look back at photos of aborted babies in the same way we look back at photos of Auschwitz-Birkenau (think twice before clicking: it’s very distressing).

You don’t have to be religious to read this blog, and to share it, and to get down on your knees and pray. You don’t have to be religious to see this 50-year anniversary as another tragic example of how holocausts happen.

← Prev article
Next article →